as in cunning
clever at attaining one's ends by indirect and often deceptive means the movie pairs a sly, dissembling ex-con with an upstanding, straight-arrow cop

Synonyms & Similar Words


Antonyms & Near Antonyms


Synonym Chooser

How is the word sly distinct from other similar adjectives?

Some common synonyms of sly are artful, crafty, cunning, foxy, slick, tricky, and wily. While all these words mean "attaining or seeking to attain one's ends by guileful or devious means," sly implies furtiveness, lack of candor, and skill in concealing one's aims and methods.

a sly corporate raider

Where would artful be a reasonable alternative to sly?

The words artful and sly are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, artful implies indirectness in dealing and often connotes sophistication or cleverness.

elicited the information by artful questioning

When could crafty be used to replace sly?

While in some cases nearly identical to sly, crafty implies cleverness and subtlety of method.

a crafty lefthander

In what contexts can cunning take the place of sly?

While the synonyms cunning and sly are close in meaning, cunning suggests the inventive use of sometimes limited intelligence in overreaching or circumventing.

the cunning fox avoided the trap

When is it sensible to use foxy instead of sly?

The synonyms foxy and sly are sometimes interchangeable, but foxy implies a shrewd and wary craftiness usually involving devious dealing.

a foxy publicity man planting stories

When is slick a more appropriate choice than sly?

In some situations, the words slick and sly are roughly equivalent. However, slick emphasizes smoothness and guile.

slick operators selling time-sharing

When might tricky be a better fit than sly?

Although the words tricky and sly have much in common, tricky is more likely to suggest shiftiness and unreliability than skill in deception and maneuvering.

a tricky political operative

When would wily be a good substitute for sly?

The meanings of wily and sly largely overlap; however, wily implies skill and deception in maneuvering.

the wily fugitive escaped the posse

Thesaurus Entries Near sly

Cite this Entry

“Sly.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.

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